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Most photographers are familiar with sharpening for their digital images. Both to compensate for the loss of sharpness that might have occurred in the original capture. And also to help ensure the best quality in your final output especially for prints. But you might not think of sharpening as a creative effect. But actually in certain situations, I will apply sharpening, or what I refer to as over-sharpening, in order to add an interesting effect to an image. Let's take a look at what I'm talking about. I'm going to start off by creating a copy of my background image layer.
So I'll drag the thumbnail from the background image layer, down to the Create New Layer button, at the bottom of the Layers panel. I'll then go to the Filter menu and choose Sharpen followed by Unsharp Mask. Now Unsharp Mask is not the latest and greatest sharpening filter in Photoshop. That would be Smart Sharpen. But Unsharp Mask does provide, in my mind, the best fit when it comes to creative sharpening or over sharpening. so I'll go ahead and choose Unsharp Mask from the Sharpen sub menu on the Filter menu. And that will bring up the Unsharp Mask dialog.
For this filter, we have, an amount adjustment, which is the intensity of effect. A radius value, which determines the size of the sharpening halos to be added to the image. And a threshold setting, which allows me to determine how much contrast there needs to be for an edge within the photo, before it's considered an edge. By default, with a value of zero Any contrast difference in the image at all will be enhanced with unsharp mask. I usually start off by increasing the amount to a very strong value. I'll go ahead and take it up to its maximum of 500% and then I'll increase the radius to get a better sense of what effect I might want to apply in the image.
I can then tone down the amount, if I want to in order to mitigate the effect a little bit. And of course, I can also increase the value for threshold, if I want the sharpening effect to only apply to the strongest contrast edges in the photo. So, for example, if I increase threshold significantly, you'll see that the sharpening is only affecting the very high contrast edges within the image. I'll go ahead and bring that value bring it down just a little bit though, and I might increase the radius a little bit more, or even a lot more. There's nothing wrong with experimenting around and seeing what sorts of options might work for an image.
And you can certainly play with the amount as well, taking it up to its maximum value to get a better sense of the real impact of that radius setting. And then reducing the value to tone down the overall result. This is starting to look pretty cool actually, it sort of looks like a play of light on these cobblestones. I think I'm going to keep the radius at a pretty high value. And maybe even increase the amount just a little bit more to really get that exaggerated contrast, which I think is looking pretty cool for this photo. Once you're happy with the settings though, you can simply click the OK button in order to finalize the effect.
And keep in mind, you can also reduce the opacity for your background copy layer if you want to tone down the overall effect. Allowing more of the unsharpened version of the image to show through. And you might even play around with the blend modes as well. Now that we've had a significant change on the appearance of the image for example. I might switch to the Overlay blend mode in order to enhance contrast just a little bit. The point being, it can be helpful to sort of mix and match various techniques when you're looking for a unique, creative effect for an image.
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